Musher suspended


hugh neff

Hugh Neff/Yukon Quest photo



This story has been updated

FAIRBANKS – The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race has sanctioned former champion Hugh Neff, a hard driver and veteran of both that race and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Neff says he will appeal.

The sanction, which includes a ban from the 1,000-mile event  in 2019 and 2020 , came Tuesday along with the release of a necropsy report on a sled dog that died in Neff’s team Feb. 9 at Clinton Creek along the trail from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

The news of the Tok musher’s suspension was a harsh blow for a sport that has been battling bad PR since it was revealed the team of four-time, Iditarod champ Dallas Seavey had been found doped in Nome at the end of that race in 2017. 

The death of Neff’s Boppy was blamed on aspiration pneumonia caused by the 5-year-old dog inhaling its own vomit. But that wasn’t the only problem the necropsy found.

Head Veterinarian Nina Hansen said in the press release that “other findings include mild stomach ulcers, moderate intestinal inflammation, mild whipworm infestation, skeletal muscle necrosis, and severe weight loss and muscle wasting.

“Due to the organization’s commitment to sled dog care during the race, and based on the Code of the Trail and Yukon Quest rules 35, 43 and 44 pertaining to sled dog care, the decision has been made by Yukon Quest International to apply” a censure.

Rule 43 is the Quest’s anti-doping rule. The rules says “the musher must have their dog team free of all prohibited drugs and foreign substances from the time of the vet check until released by a race veterinarian or race official after the team has finished the race. Dogs that are continuing in the race shall not receive any of the following.”

Quest veterinarian Kathleen McGill said in a text message that Neff’s dog “did not have a positive drug test.” But she has yet to answer the question as to whether any drugs were found in the dog’s system. As was made clear after the Iditarod doping scandal erupted this year, there is a difference between drugs being found in a dog and a positive drug test being declared.

The 50-year-old Neff, a two-time Quest champion and four-time runner-up, ignored several requests for comment, but on Wednesday morning he posted this on his Facebook page:

“There is 2 sides to every story. We will be showing ours soon.”

Fans were rallying to Neff’s side.

“It’s been real hard to not jump down people’s throats online for their comments,” Justin Brand from Fairbanks posted on Neff’s Facebook page. “I know you’d never knowingly run a sick pup, and I really feel for ya.  Stay strong, and don’t listen to cowards on keyboards. Your awesome and we all know it.”

Neff has in the past made promises to tell his side of the story only to leave the promises unfulfilled. After his team quit on the ice of Golovin Bay during the 2014 Iditarod and he had to be rescued, he messaged that “I’m racing this weekend, (but) everything will be explained soon enough.”

Neff, however, never explained why his team gave up, and why he couldn’t get them going again after a reasonable rest.

An explanation this time will be impossible to avoid if Neff follows through on his Facebook post announcing his planned Quest appeal.

The censure bans him from the race next year along with the 2019 Yukon Quest 300. If he wants to make a comeback, he will be required to run the YQ 300 mid-distance race before being allowed to enter the 1,000-mile race. That requirement will keep him out of the Quest proper until at least 2021.

“As per Rule #15, “the press release added, “Hugh Neff will have 30 days from the date of censure to request in writing an informal hearing with the Yukon Quest.”

It is unclear at this point how the Iditarod, the state’s most prestigious race might react to the Quest censure. That race has been embroiled in a doping controversy, and Iditarod racers in a meeting with a Board of Directors earlier this month demanded a crack down on drug use.

Many were also looking desperately for a positive light to shine on Alaska’s state sport. Most of the people who compete in the two races do so largely because they like living with big packs of dogs. For them, the Neff bust came as more bad news even if the personable fellow nicknamed “Huge Mess” has been seen by a some as a problem for years.

Neff was famous for being an Iditarod rabbit; he often was at the front of the race, but his best ever finish was fifth in 2011.

In 2014 – in an effort to net a third, top-10, Iditarod finish – he coaxed a fading team out of the village of Elim near the end of the Iditarod. That team subsequently quit on him, which led to his rescue.

He spent ten hours out on the ice in the wind and cold in an inadequate sleeping bag in a sled bag too small to provide shelter. He later said he could feel his body dying in the cold, and blamed Iditarod officials for not sending help sooner.

When Neff was hauled into White Mountain, the Iditarod’s penultimate checkpoint, he huddled by a heater in a tight ball and only slowly began to spread his arms and legs. Another musher watching Neff’s antics was reported to have described him as “blackfish.”

The blackfish – a small, ancient species that breathe both water and air – is a notorious Alaska survivor.

“More than one Alaska Native elder visiting the (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)  information center has commented that if you thaw a blackfish after it has been frozen it will ‘come back to life,’ the agency’s Nancy Sisinyak. “(But) debate continues as to whether the Alaska blackfish can survive total freezing or partial freezing, for how long and at what temperatures. Surprisingly, there are very few studies in scientific journals that focus on the blackfish. Little is known about their life history and physiology.”

Chicago born Neff has always seen himself as something of a blackfish – a survivor. He embraced an image as an Alaska hardman.

In 2013 in a blog post titled “champs or chumps,” he suggested Iditarod racers weren’t tough enough for the Quest.

“Is it the cold Alaskan interior weather?,” he asked. “Temps have hovered way above zero over the last few years– warmer on average than the Last Great Race’s have been. Whatever their excuses it really is pathetic. Alaskans lead by example, unfortunately these prominent mushers glued to earning incomes off of Mr. Redington’s dream (race) are the worst role models the Greatland has.”

In 2011, Neff led the Quest into a storm on notorious Eagle Summit north of Fairbanks only to be forced to turn back. A dog died during the journey. In 2001, Quest veterinarians disqualified Neff, an unusually harsh move, after deciding his team was unfit to continue. 

The last time an Alaska long-distance sled dog race suspended a musher for a dog care issue was in 2007. Ramy Brooks from Nenana was banned from the Iditarod for two years after villagers in Golovin reported to race officials that his dogs stopped there, and when Brooks couldn’t get them going again, he beat and kicked them.

Brooks admitted to “spanking” the dog with a piece of lath used to mark the trail. After the ban, he never returned to Iditarod.

In 2017, the Iditarod suspended Travis Beals from Willow for beating his girlfriend. Beals subsequently completed a state treatment program for abusers and returned to the race this year to finish in ninth place.











40 replies »

  1. Its not the musher who should be suspended is the miserable excuse for a Dr. that cleared the obviously sick animal to run, not once but twice. “dr.” Hanson should reconsider waiting tables.

  2. A little light. Hugh’s team had adult whip worms present in the intestine. This from the necropsy. Don’t ask how I got it.
    To continue. The info about anti-acids. Most of what said on this thread is verifiably correct. Except for the comment that stomach ulcers are easily corrected/prevented with the use of Pepcid. I have 20 one thousand mile races. Finished with all dogs in 4 of them. Never used any anti-acid. I have had 22 dogs checked for ulcers after those races, (on my own hook), and no positives.
    Rayme’s rule suggestion about all Finishers dogs must be alive is a great one.
    In addition; there needs to be some sort of accountability and transparency in the off season. I like the Best Care protocol, but am not stuck on it. That is a potential starting point.

  3. Steve I’m in agreement with you to most part . I agree with ruling . My gripe is imprecise information. If you had dealt with officials as much as I have you would look between the words to understand what’s being said. Or rather not said precisely. The world needs exact info to be informed and knowledgeable. I have seen to much behind the sceens maneuvering to take everything at face value . Although I agree with you it’s not dark intent they are all good people they are just trying to deal with situations best they can . Complete accuracy would be better though. I do support them . I would support them even more if they were precise and clear . Did you read my concept of hiatus rule ? It would have saved vets – officials and musher from being in this position of strain .

    • Well Ramey,
      According to the Quest rules that Pete linked to below in his comment…Rule #44 says any musher can be disqualified from future races if they have a dog die in the race, so this censure should not be unexpected.
      Both Sass and Neff have had 2 dogs die in quest races.
      Neff had another die on the Irod trail.
      Keith has had 2 dogs die at same location…same disease (Aspiration Pneumonia) while participating in Irod.
      Mackey had 2 dogs die in one race.
      Terrible dog care.

      I personally think you are looking too hard for a defense for “poor hugh”.
      Tough shit…
      He killed too many dogs on the trail.
      He is now a liability for the p.r. of the sport of mushing.
      Time to “go get a red card” and dig ditch for fire season.
      I am glad to see some penalties come forward for inhumane dog care and lack of attention to an animal’s well being while beiny commercially sponsored to be out on the trail.

  4. Where are the necropsy results from K.Keith’s dead Iditarod dog this year? Or from her 2017 dead dog as well??
    Just like Neff’s dead dog…
    All 3 dogs died from “Aspiration Pneumonia”.
    Did Keith’s dead dogs have ulcers as well?
    How about Worms?
    What about Muscle wasting?
    Intestinal inflammation?
    Where is the ITC release from her pathology follow up?
    Dr. Davis said the “majority” of Huskys forced to run these races have severe stomach ulcers…
    Stress and NSAIDs.
    Young dogs should not be fed drugs all season..
    And they are!

    • Hi Steve . Before you take what the vets said about neff dog as gospel I suggest getting the facts from a more direct source. As the vets description wasn’t very precise or professional. Where that precise info can be found I don’t know . It’s possible the vets released that info in that form to discourage neff from fighting back . Sort of to color him . All knowledgeable vets know dogs can get worms . To say neff wasn’t using correct worming protocol is very controversial. Did they know when neff wormed did they know dose ? Did they know brand ? Did that dog spit it out ? Example worms develop resistance to certain wormers . Did neff dog pick up that certain worm ? The vets statement is akin to saying this patient has a bad bacteria he must have used antibiotics incorrectly. Completely illogical. Did I transfer that thought to you in a way that is easily understood? Their were other issues with the information release . Also understand I’m not standing up for neff as he has a reputation issues. That said The vets should have released the info in a more scientific fashion versus vague and dramatic so the rest of us can really understand what occurred. That’s my thought

      • Ramey,
        I feel you that we could all have a dog get one or two of these “conditions”, but when you have a string of inhumane findings…and this is not the first dog you “ran to death” in an endurance race, then a guy like me has to believe the necropsy results….
        Neff had at least 1 dog died in Irod in the past, and Keith had 2 die as well…so, if we are seeing a pattern with aspiration, then something is wrong?
        I am not a vet, but I see the patterns year after year.
        I do not think the vets had any malicious intent (to color him as you say).
        If I was a musher, I would demand more info…like what banned drugs came up in testing?
        And where is Keith’s follow up necropsy report?
        Lots of eyes are on Irod and Quest and it looks like the Canadians are leading again with Neff’s censure.
        Good for them,
        I support their decision.
        You should support them as well.

  5. The Quest says Neff violated rule 43, but it won’t name the banned substance that was found.
    Doping dogs is a huge problem among some endurance sled dog racers. Why is the Quest hiding information?

    • In the media release, they explained that this rule was used because of the section dealing with authority, not for the part related to drugs. Sounds like they need to clean up the rule, but it’s not a case of hiding something.

  6. I asked the Quest about positives earlier in the year via fb message; here is the exchange:
    Hello – a moment of your time please: with the drug positive fiasco still brewing ‘over there’ I was curious about Quest policy – is it zero tolerance? or something more flexible? who makes the determination? Is this info available on the web site? Thanks in advance.
    Hi Pete. You’ll find the Yukon Quest rules around foreign substances here. Please refer to rule 43.
    thanks much for the quick response! just to be entirely clear in my tired old brain – even tiny amounts are considered a positive which then goes to the rules committee? thanks again!
    FEB 26TH, 3:40PM
    A positive test indicating the presence of a foreign substance will go to the Rules Committee.
    FEB 26TH, 7:40PM – (didn’t ask who was on the other end)

  7. He was born on a summer day 1951
    And with a slap of a hand
    He landed as an only son
    His mother and father said what a lovely boy
    We’ll teach him what we learned
    Ah yes just what we learned
    We’ll dress him up warmly and
    We’ll send him to school
    It’ll teach him how to fight
    To be nobody’s fool
    Oh, oh what a lonely boy
    Oh what a lonely boy
    Oh what a lonely boy
    In the summer of ’53 his mother
    Brought him a sister
    And she told him we must attend to her needs
    She’s so much younger than you
    Well he ran down the hall and he cried
    Oh how could his parents have lied
    When they said he was an only son
    He thought he was the only one
    Oh, oh what a lonely boy
    Oh what a lonely boy
    Oh what a lonely boy
    Goodbye mama, goodbye to you
    Goodbye papa I’m pushing on through

    • Anne, I can’t find any reference to the Quest using rule 43 because Neff violated authority. The release from the Quest says: “Final Necropsy Report on Boppy, Hugh Neff’s Dog
      Tuesday, April 24, 2018

      On February 9, 2018, Boppy, a dog on Hugh Neff’s team died at Clinton Creek.

      Head Veterinarian Cristina (Nina) Hansen, DVM, PhD states that the final necropsy report indicates Boppy died of aspiration pneumonia caused by inhaling vomited stomach contents. Other findings include mild stomach ulcers, moderate intestinal inflammation, mild whipworm infestation, skeletal muscle necrosis, and severe weight loss and muscle wasting.

      Mushers of the 2018 Yukon Quest have been notified of the whipworms and have been urged to consult with their veterinarians regarding deworming protocols.

      Due to the organization’s commitment to sled dog care during the race, and based on the Code of the Trail and Yukon Quest rules 35, 43 and 44 pertaining to sled dog care, the decision has been made by Yukon Quest International to apply the following censure based on the additional findings:

      1. Neff will be ineligible to apply to race in the YQ300 and the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race in 2019.

      2. Neff will be required to run the YQ300 prior to entering the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race.

      As per Rule #15, Hugh Neff will have 30 days from the date of censure to request in writing an informal hearing with the Yukon Quest.

      Click here for more information regarding the Yukon Quest rules.”

  8. Craig, Come out of the woods! You have not had a political article since February 1, 2018!
    WTF is going on in Juneau! A $3.5 billion deficit? 20 days to go….

  9. Anne Taylor you should follow your own words. Stick to facts . Everything I said was factual down to the iota . Every thing provable by scientific analysis. The vets statements were to vague period . They would not have held up to qualified peer review. That made them look bad from an experienced point of Veiw . Even though their end analysis and ruling was probably correct . Where are the exact stats and studies ? Observation alone doesn’t cut it when you accuse Hugh the way they have . Exact analysis is required. I have the utmost respect for top end vets but I don’t have respect when a professional says vague things ,throws in misinformation and paints an inaccurate picture. Even when they are correct . I’m not standing for Hugh or malighning a vet . I’m pointing out where better more exact information is needed. I doubt you have the experience it would take to critique my statement. Feel free to prove me wrong but provide facts . Thank you .

    • I think we might have been talking at cross purposes — I was referring to the necropsy results, which are not vague; I was not referring to the vet’s comments. I happen to know the vets involved and respect them, and I am sure they would respond and clarify anything that you feel is too vague. Going to the source is a good option, I believe.

      • Anne when a trained professional makes a vague public statements that colors a person , be they innocent or guilty it’s unprofessional. It does a disservice. If you have dealt with top vets or people at the top of their field in anything you would know that . I will agree perhaps we were somehow speaking on two different subjects. I was speaking of their public release of information to the media . That release would not hold up to peer review. Of course the exact autopsy would because usually that’s by a trained professional who would use exact terms and descriptions that could be cross checked . I would hope . Do you have veterinary training or a background working with professionals on a daily basis ? I would like to understand how you could defend the media release ? When it was so unscientific? Clue me in please .

  10. Difficult to prevent dogs from getting stomach ulcers in endurance races:

    “Under actual racing conditions, famotidine was not sufficiently effective in preventing severe EIGD [exercise-induced gastric disease]. A further study was then conducted, which compared the efficacy high-dose famotidine (40 mg PO BID/~25 kg dog) with omeprazole (20 mg PO SID/~25 kg dog) in preventing EIGD under racing conditions. This study showed that, with carefully timed administration, near the conclusion of a long exercise bout during which minimal snacking has occurred, omeprazole is more effective in reducing the number and severity of gastric lesions in racing sled dogs than famotidine. If an additional 30 min is allowed to pass prior to feeding the dog, efficacy can approach 100% in preventing clinically significant lesions during even the most strenuous exercise events.”

    – Michael S. Davis and Katherine K. Williamson, “Gastritis and Gastric Ulcers in Working Dogs,” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2016; 3: 30

    [Famotidine is not sufficiently effective in preventing ulcers. For omeprazole to be effective in preventing ulcers, the administration of the drug has to be carefully timed. It can be very difficult for mushers to give these pills orally in extreme conditions while also factoring in how much a particular dog has eaten and when.]

    • Lisbeth , i am very familiar with that study and you are correct. Administration of anti ulcer drugs is questionable as well as hard to time effectively. I think the ulcer studies are incomplete. We need to know exactly why those dogs had ulcers . Were nsaids over used ? We need more information. I truly question the concept that exercise is the sole problem . They need to study some teams and control the circumstances better . A more scientific study is in order . The ulcer med study was fairly good . I remember when it was done . I propose a study where they control the circumstances and have control groups. Commercial dog food may be a factor as dogs are not grain eaters . My question is would a dog team on primarily long term meat based diet free of nsaids get ulcers from exercise? I think the prevalence of ulcers would be massively reduced.

  11. I was not surprised to learn about the poor condition of Hugh’s dog. I was quite surprised that he admitted that he did not follow what has become the standard protocol of providing a pepcid (or generic) because science has proven it greatly reduces deaths my aspiration. Something so simple Hugh. Something that greatly improves quality of life. Huge mess indeed.

  12. Why is Neff being allowed to race in the Iditarod? When he violated Quest rules, don’t you think he also ignored Iditarod rules?

    • I suspect this will be addressed by Iditarod folks, in time, but remember here that this was also a vet failure. Hard to say if Iditarod vets would have prevented this, but Neff is faulted for his own shortcomings and that appears to be the right decision IMO.

      • Vets . A sticky subject. In Hugh’s case it’s not their fault. Dog was in mushers care . Once the dog is dropped those vets and officials better do whatever it takes to assure survival . Their have been issues where they fell down on job . In this case their were many things said by the vets that do not hold up under examination. Their decision and ruling is sound but their public statements are not . It is common scientific knowledge that under certain circumstances dogs harbor encysted worms regardless of worming protocol these worms lay dormant until certain circumstances trigger them . Say pregnancy. Or health issues. If a dog was kept in a sterile environment perhaps all worms could be eradicated. The body fat statement also is questionable. Did they do a sientific test or was it just by eye ? Fat around organs ? Most fit athletic dogs / canids have shockingly little . This can be scientifically verified. The way the info was discussed makes it sound like a poor analysis was done . More Alaskan or racing dog savvy vets would help . For some reason Iditarods Stu Nelson alows a crew of vets primarily from outside the state to be assembled. Many are very very knowledgeable but many are way out of their element. Improvement could be made by alowing or reqruiting vets with sled dog specific knowledge. Races might have to pay these people but it’s better to have 5 knowledgeable Workman than 50 beginners . That said I don’t personally know the quest vets . Perhaps it’s different with them . They obviously are good people as they are looking into the issue to try and improve their program . Kudos to the quest vet crew .

      • The comments from Smyth are problematic. The vets involved in the race this year had a lot of experience, and the necropsy was very thorough. They should not be maligned. Perhaps a further interview is warranted — but unless you were involved in that particular necropsy, perhaps don’t throw out statements. There was not an issue of simply body fat — it was far more complex than Smyth suggests. Let’s stick to facts rather than speculations.

      • i agree, though i don’t think Rayme was maligning any Quest vets.
        i’m personally more interested in the “skeletal muscle necrosis, and severe weight loss and muscle wasting.”
        do you have access to the actual necropsy?
        what is “severe?” how underweight was this dog?
        muscle necrosis is common in marathoners of all species. was it more severe here than one would expect to see in a five-year-old Quest dog? was it judged a sign of undertraining (ie. a dog that wasn’t prepared well for the Quest and then asked to do too much) or overtraining (ie. a dog that didn’t get enough rest in training and came into the Quest already compromised?)
        the muscle wasting would tend to make me wonder about overtraining pre-race.
        and since this dog died, i’ve been trying to get my head around aspiration pnuemonia while resting. what was going on there? a resting dog that couldn’t puke properly?

      • Craig – I have read dogs can get aspiration pneumonia from reflux as well. And antacids were not being provided. Also the dog could have puked/refluxed while sleeping – people can die from this especially if drunk. I am curious about the necrosis questions as well.

    • Lisbeth,
      Keith’s dog died same way this year in Iditarod Race… (Aspiration Pneumonia) and NO sanction or censure…
      She (Keith) killed 2 dogs…2 years in a row…
      Same checkpoint….same cause (vomit in airway) and still no banning her from their races…
      Because that is what these mushers do, Is RUN dogs to DEATH….
      Dog racing has been banned in a majority of U.S. states.
      This is not about banning mushing, but endind dog racing…
      Go run a marathon if you are so fit!

      • Steve, your post has nothing to do with reasoning Neff is banned from Quest. Stop with the bullchit as it is just wasting all our time.
        Your opinion is just that, your opinion and has nothing to do with anything here IMO.

      • Bill…
        It is not my opinion.
        Neff’s dog died of aspiration pneumonia…
        So did BOTH of Keith’s Irod dogs.
        As for wasting your time.
        You said it yourself…”your an old fogey” with time on your hands.
        And STOP telling me not to state my opinion!
        Go live in China if U do not like our 1st Ammendment!
        These races suck!

      • The dog died of aspiration pneumonia, but that is not the reasoning for Quest banning Neff. And keith has not been banned for her dogs dying for that same reason.
        Your opinion about banning these races is just that, a bullchit opinion IMO. Heheh!
        Go ahead and keep on with it-it puts you in good company.

  13. “The news of the Tok musher’s suspension was a harsh blow for a sport that has been battling bad PR”

    Disagree. Its a solid step forward and kudos to YQ for taking this step.

    This individual has been abusing dogs since the day he infected the sport and if mushing is to survive and maintain any credibility & ethics, he and others like him should be denied the platform and opportunities to perform their egoistic and abusive behavior.

    Good job Yukon Quest.

  14. more rest doesn’t nessasarily solve the problem. In fact there is almost no correlation. At this point of competitive mushing . Unless you stay home . I do know that dogs die at home for mushers and pet owners. Even at home . For pros and amateur alike . Chemistry is probably part of the problem. More money for testing , better enforcement, transparency, stricter rules , extreme penalties. Extreme testing of top 3 finishers. Also lack of Musher accountabilitie is part of the problem. Dogs pass away . It’s a fact of life . Young and old . But mushers can work harder to massively reduce the occurrence. I believe the Iditarod and quest are ready for an upgrade . That allows for hard core competition yet an automatic safety factor. A no fault rule that enforces an automatic racing hiatus if a dog in the team dies . If a dog in team passes you are not eligible to Finnish. All team members must end the race alive to qualify as a finisher . A two year hiatus would also be required . This would apply even if the dog died in any other 1,000 mile race . This would allow the musher time to resolve any issues that might be attributable to a the death. If a second dog dies an automatic 10 year hiatus. A third death would place that musher as inelgable for future 1,000 mile races . This rule does not place fault for a death but it acknowledges the sanctity of the team as a whole . The only exception to this rule would be death by machine or avalanche . The team would still not be allowed to Finnish. As all dogs must be alive to be a finisher . But no hiatus from future races . Anti abuse rules would apply as usual . This new rule would in my opinion resolve most of distance races major problem. Yet still alow for a race format . Almost any other concept will most likely not work . My opinion. Unless we just all stay home and avoid any form of risk . Maybe I’m wrong but I doubt it .

  15. So Neff’s dog died the same way as Keith’s dog died this year in Irod…Aspiration Pneumonia (stomach contents in wind pipe and lungs).
    And then there is the issue of stomach ulcers which the majority of Irod dogs have as well…
    Stress and a constant diet of NSAID’s to fight k9’s inflammation from over training and racing.
    End commercial dog races.
    Go back to recreational and “functional” mushing.
    We have proven that a dog team can run 1,000 miles…
    No new ground is covered with these abused animals.

      • Thank you Dell . It is my opinion as a very experienced musher that the dog team is in the mushers care . The musher is responsible to assure all animals in the team survive. Regardless of accident or health . Obviously extreme circumstances could be worked into the rule and reviewed by the board . There are many things a musher cannot stop a dog dying from . The musher can reduce these occurrences . A death by moose or drowning can usually be avoided by reasonable preparation. Correct firearm for moose . ( they can charge into team unannounced and kill dogs but it’s rare . Usually their is some form of stand off or the moose chases the team for miles at times . I have had all forms of attacks . Only once in 40 years would a correct fire arm been no help . When I was 19 a moose jumped across my team in dim light . No dogs were injured. But if luck had been bad a dog could have . A musher must take care of their team so they survive. Thus a no fault rule . It’s not truly a mushers fault when a moose kills a dog . In mushing it’s imperative all dogs survive. If they don’t it’s painful for all involved. If they don’t survive Iditarod / distance racing won’t survive in the long run . When I take to the trail I consider it my direct responsibility to assure all dogs make it home safe regardless of what we go through. If I thought a dog has a high probability of dying I will not take him . Of course things happen. I and any musher or pet owner can have a dog fatality at any time . That’s why a no fault rule . Same with drowning . Usually a musher can avoid it . Don’t you think if you took your kid on a trip and one didn’t return there might have been some issues and your spouse would be much less likely to alow you to take children unattended? My stance is all team members must survive to be considered a finisher . I am even apt to stretch that to include death by machines and avalanche but that’s unreasonable. So I say make a couple exceptions but make it clear and not wishy washy . If you do this dog deaths will be massively reduced. Excepting massive accidents. Trains – planes ect where a whole team could be wiped out . I would also say make sure the ruling could be appealed on common sense grounds . Say a massive earthquake occurs while on Yukon river resulting in a wave ect . Extreme catastrophic events clause . The team could still not be considered a Finnisher even in those cases . But no hiatus required.

      • Good Points Ramy.. I just remember when Swenson ( who I handled for in his early years 80 to 83) had a dog accidentally drown in I think 93 or so and he was I believe dq’ed but since was exonerated…. But all in all i believe you are right on point for the both races to survive… Met so many great mushers back then too….. Some good and some bad…. Joee was a friend as well back then too… Brings back some really good memories Ramy…. But alas I’m just an armchair musher now….. lol Good luck on your next race. I ‘ll be following and rooting for you..

  16. So, why was this level of deterioration not detected at a vet check – Neff spent 7 hours in Eagle. This is exactly the type of scenario driving the more mandatory rest discussion, clearly a legitimate concern.

    • Question answered: ”It was a failure on the vet team, and I’m going to admit that,” Hansen said. “That dog was looked at in Eagle, and it was recorded to have a poor body condition. And that was not brought to my attention. It is noted in the vet book. I had left Eagle before Hugh got there so that it something I need to evaluate on the vet team as well.”

      • Part of the challenge is making sure that all officials at a checkpoint have the authority to act in such situations, and that they know the boards and Rules Committee will have their backs when it comes to actions taken in the best interests of the dogs.

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